Trump's ex-lawyer Cohen testifies again, this time behind closed doors

Trump's ex-lawyer Cohen testifies again, this time behind closed doors

Kerry Wise
March 1, 2019

Michael Cohen, disgraced former lawyer and "fixer" to US President Donald Trump, has delivered incendiary testimony to US Congress about Trump's business practices.

This part of his testimony was "helpful to the President", says Mr Christie, who was the head of Mr Trump's transition planning team and is a former governor of New Jersey.

Cohen told U.S. politicians on Wednesday that he had no "direct evidence" that Trump or his aides had colluded with Russian Federation to get him elected. Though Cohen accused Trump of engaging in "illicit acts" while in office, including the reimbursement of hush-money payments made during the campaign to his former mistresses, the former attorney admitted he did not have knowledge of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation. The grand jury indictments that have produced guilty pleas from Trump's former campaign chair, his national security adviser, and a slew of other operatives are often confusing. According to prosecutors from the SDNY, Cohen's payment-made on behalf of "Individual 1" (aka Trump)-amounted to a crime under the federal campaign finance laws.

"At the same time I was actively negotiating in Russian Federation for him", Cohen testified, "he would look me in the eye and tell me there's no business in Russian Federation and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing". Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress.

President Donald Trump probably isn't the only one sweating over the testimony from his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

But, in an op-ed published later in the day, the newspaper's board said it was "explosive not for what was new - but, depressingly, what was not new to anyone watching this administration with clear eyes".

Before meeting Trump, Cohen became rich as a personal injury lawyer and various investments, including the taxi business.

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Sceptical and, at times, hostile Republicans noted repeatedly that Cohen has already pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. At a Vietnam hotel and unable to ignore the drama thousands of miles away, Trump lashed out on Twitter, saying Cohen "did bad things unrelated to Trump" and "is lying in order to reduce his prison time". "It's laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word", said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Perhaps most importantly, Cohen revealed that prosecutors in NY are investigating conversations that Trump or his advisers had with Cohen after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided his hotel room and office in April 2018.

Asked if Trump knew the details, Cohen said: "Oh, he knew about everything, yes". The hearing proceeded along parallel tracks, with Democrats focusing on allegations against Trump while Republicans sought to undermine Cohen's credibility and the proceeding itself.

But Cohen said the president was careful not to directly tell him to do so. Trump provided an inflated picture of his assets to Deutsche Bank when preparing to make a bid for the NFL's Buffalo Bills, Cohen said. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for that lie and other crimes.

Other Republicans went off on Cohen, including Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a top Trump ally who pointed his glasses at Cohen and at times shouted. "I will not sit back and allow him to do the same to the country". When asked about that person publicly, Cohen said he believed it was the president's son. "I think they're afraid you're going to tell the truth". "I have fixed things, but I am no longer your fixer, Mr Trump".

Cohen apologised on Wednesday for his earlier false statements to Congress, which he claimed were "reviewed and edited" by Mr Trump's lawyers. Cohen said he could not discuss that conversation, the last contact he said he has had with the president or anyone acting on his behalf, because it remains under investigation.

Cohen grew visibly emotional at the end of the hearing as Cummings thanked him for coming.